The evolution of YA: Invented by librarians

Learn how the Young Adult genre came to be in another of my favorite installments from PBS’s “It’s Lit!” series.

While we see the YA label everywhere now, it wasn’t put into use until the mid-twentieth century, partially because it wasn’t until around World War II that teenagers were even considered their own marketing demographic; before that, everything had been divided into two categories, Child or Adult.

“Books for Young Adults” was a term coined by librarians in 1944 as they gathered and made lists of books from both the Child and Adult categories that would appeal to adolescents—and “Young Adult” has stuck as a genre ever since.

TL;DW: “It’s a bit reductive to be dismissive of Young Adult [fiction]. First of all, it’s not just a niche genre. YA is remarkable for its wide appeal: 55% of YA books purchased in 2012 were bought by adults between 18 and 44 years old... Not only does YA shape younger audiences as readers, it is a genre that helps give its audience a lexicon for understanding that there is a complex world between childhood and adulthood.”


“Ugh, the book was better.”

PBS’s “It’s Lit!” series is great at boiling down huge concepts into a tight five, and this video is a case in point.

As someone who has a blast comparing film adaptations with their literary source material, this exploration of the topic nails what can sometimes be hard for book-lovers to succinctly express.

TL;DW:Books are, by their very nature, more personal. When you’re reading a book, your brain is essentially acting as director, casting agent, cinematographer—Is it any wonder that people get protective of the books that they love being turned into a major motion picture? No! It’s as if a middle man has stepped in between you and the literal movie of your dreams.


“Why did they make me read this in high school?”

If you’ve ever wondered why some books get put on higher pedestals than others for seemingly no reason other than the fact that your teachers and professors told you they were important, crack an egg of knowledge on yourself with this video from PBS’s “It’s Lit!” series.

TL;DW: “So, who decided what’s important in the Western literary canon? Well, historically it’s been … old white men.

… But our day-to-day lives and our understanding of people outside of our own limited worldview has changed, and with that, so too have the types of voices that now get published and elevated.”

This is one of many great videos from the PBS “It’s Lit!” series on YouTube. They’re hosted by of one my favorite YouTubers, Lindsay Ellis, who also has a ton of killer content on her personal channel about film, television, books, and musicals.